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Undergraduate Researchers

Jacob Keener

Jacob Keener, Political Science

"Rethinking the Liberal Democratic Peace Hypothesis"

The purpose of this research is to inquire into the various meanings of the word democracy and to use the knowledge from that inquiry to investigate the democratic peace theory, which holds that states with democratic forms of government tend to be more peaceful than non-democracies. A substantial amount of research has been done about democracies and war, including the democratic peace theory by international relations scholars, but much of this research has taken the meaning of democracy for granted. At the same time, political philosophers have written at length about the meaning of democracy, but both groups do so in their separate spheres. The nexus of international relations and political philosophy is a sparsely-researched area and both fields would be better served by research that takes into account both theoretical philosophy and empirical research. Through this research I will investigate the different meanings and variants of democracy and classify various democratic states according to these definitions. The research will then investigate the political and military actions of each state in its foreign affairs in light of democratic peace theory in order to come to a conclusion about the accuracy and relevance of the theory to differing democratic states.

When and how did you find out that you could do independent research or creative work as a UMBC undergraduate? I was told by my academic advisor, Dr. Hody (who is also my research advisor) about POLI 409, which is a class that prepares students to do research. My professor in that class, Dr. Forestiere, encouraged me to apply for the URA.


How did you find a mentor and decide on a project? How did you know this was the project you wanted to do? I knew that I wanted to do a project in political science since that is what I've been studying the longest. Additionally, since I was already in POLI 409 planning to do a Poli Sci honors project, it made sense to do stay in this field. I decided on democratic peace theory as my topic because, as part of International Relations, it has interested me since my very first semester at UMBC. I have taken two International Relations courses with Dr. Hody and I also know her from advising, so she seemed a natural choice for advisor.


How much time do you/will you put into this research/creative work? I expect to do the majority of the research for this project over the summer months of 2011. I estimate that I will invest 10-20 hours per week doing research through online databases and at institutions such as the Library of Congress. Throughout the summer I will distill these readings into an annotated bibliography and craft both a literature review and the first, primarily theoretical, part of my final paper.

What academic background did you have before you started on this research? I have been a political science for all three years that I have been at UMBC so far, and I have taken numerous classes on the subject both within the department and through the Honors College, where I am also a student. I have taken two classes specifically on International Relations, though the subject has come up in other classes as well.

How did you learn about applying for the Undergraduate Research Award? Was the application hard? Did your mentor help you? I learned about the URA through Dr. Forestiere in the Political Science Department. I was taking POLI 409 with the idea of doing an honors research project within the department, and Dr. Forestiere encouraged me to apply for the URA. The application was difficult, particularly in that it was unlike any other application I had filled out before, but I received help from both Dr. Forestiere and my mentor on the project, Dr. Hody.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research? Start early and keep your plans in mind at least a semester in advance of starting the actual process.  Find a good advisor early and meet regularly to discuss your project and your plans for how to complete it.  Having a strong start and support from a mentor will enable you to have a sense of what you need to do. Then follow through! In that vein, it is a good idea to have a comprehensive schedule early on.

What are your career goals? I am not sure what I want to do beyond college and (eventually) graduate school, but I am interested in the possibility of working in a library or museum, and studying either library sciences or museum studies in graduate school.